Tough winter weather hurts Southwestern dairies

Tough winter weather hurts Southwestern dairies

White out conditions pummeled dairies, caused thousands of livestock deaths

The wild weekend weather in eastern New Mexico and western Texas crippled some dairies, resulting in a heavy livestock death toll in the region, New Mexico State Dairy Extension Agent Robert Hagevoort said in a USDA interview.

Up to 12-foot tall snow drifts kept some dairy operators from milking and trapped some cattle. About 5% of the cattle in the region, or 20,000 animals, were lost, he said.

Calves in hutches, however, were protected by the heavy snow, which insulated them from extreme temperatures.

Snow blankets Marsha Sharp Freeway on U.S. Highway 82 on December 27, 2015 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)

Besides loss of livestock, the storm also created some logistical issues. On those farms that were able to continue milking, much of the milk had to be dumped due to unavailable transportation, Hagevoort said, and power outages were widespread.

Because of the large drifts, many workers on farms at the time of the storm also were trapped and ended up working double or triple shifts, Hagevoort said. Those workers were tasked with bringing in cows from open lots and milking cows that weren't harmed.

He said he also heard stories of farm families providing clean clothes, meals and a place to rest for workers who stayed to help.

"Stories like that are the ones we need to remember," he said. "We just hope that we can at least keep some of those dairies open and running and we don't have to lose some dairies because of this situation."

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